Possession Reform in Wales
On 11th July 2019 the Welsh Government opened its consultation on reforming possession in Wales.
Unlike the English proposals, landlords will still be able to seek possession without providing their reason for possession. However, they propose significant restrictions on the use of this notice.
What are the proposed changes?
These proposals will only take effect when the Renting Homes (Wales) Act 2016 comes into force. In that a Section 21 notice will be replaced by a Section 173 notice. This is expected at the start of 2021.
If the proposals are implemented, landlords will not be able to serve the Section 173 notice until 6 months have passed from the tenant moving in. In addition, they propose to increase the required notice period to a minimum of 6 months.
Further changes will also prohibit the use of early break clauses as well as ending tenancies at the expiry of a fixed term under Section 186 of the Act.
This will effectively create 12 month minimum tenancy terms as landlords will not be able to apply to court for possession until the tenant has lived in the property.
The Welsh Government also proposes to add a 6 month prohibition on serving a Section 173 notice where an earlier notice was served and expired without being used.
What are the issues?
While the RLA welcomes the Welsh Government retaining the section 173 notice, there are significant issues with the proposals as they stand.
Landlords do not go to court without good reason and prefer to keep good tenants in their homes. Contrary to the myths around ‘no fault evictions’ landlords usually only use a Section 21 notice where the tenant is at fault.
The survey results found 83% of landlords who used Section 21 had done so because of rent arrears. Over half of all Section 21 users had also experienced antisocial tenants. However they were 5 times more likely to use Section 21 over the Section 8 notice designed for these situations.
This may be due to lack of trust in the court system and inadequacies in the Section 8 route. While there will still be an equivalent grounds based possession route, there are no improvements to this process mentioned in the consultation that would assist landlords suffering with poor tenants.
Landlords face significant delays in regaining possession of their property once the notice period has ended. In our possession reform survey we found that in the majority of court cases it took landlords more than 15 weeks to regain possession of their property after applying to court.
It is little surprise then that 78% of respondents were dissatisfied with the courts. However, the consultation makes no mention of improving the court process.
When Section 173 replaces Section 21, it will not change the behaviour of the tenants, nor will it improve the delays in the court system. What it will do is lead to more landlords seeking possession for breach of contract.
If that happens, landlords will still require a reliable way to regain possession from unreliable or disruptive tenants if they are to have the confidence to continue to let to reliable ones. Without it they may choose to flee the market rather than facing the significant delays they associate with grounds based possession through the courts.
Have your say
The Welsh Government is currently seeking your views on this. You have until 5th September 2019 to have your opinions heard.
In addition the RLA has prepared a letter to be sent to Assembly Members that you can access here.